Is there really no ‘gent’ with you?

Published: July 20, 2012

Is it really so shocking to be a choti mem saab getting something done in a sea of gaping men, alone?

It could be the heat or a genetic mutation that has turned me into a rabid zombie, but I’m willing to bet it’s simply everybody else.

I am seething.

I, a 26-year-old female, went to the Islamabad Traffic Police office to get my driver’s license renewed one morning. You know that feeling when you walk into a room and you are the only one wearing gold lame tights (I totally started wearing those before they were hip. Awkward.)? Yes, that’s what it feels like; a young female trying to get something done in a sea of gaping men, shocked to find that you, a choti mem saab (young lady) are to be seen alone there!

I proceeded to booth number one.

Only one guy ahead of me. Score. Here I am waiting patiently under the noon sun, when a woman in her late 30s (the only other female face to be seen) cuts in line and stands right in front of me. Patience evaporates right away.

“Excuse me,”  I said, “I am ahead of you.”

Unperturbed, she says,

There was space ahead of you.

Feeling a bit helpless, I utter profanities, rather scream them in my head. Why dear world, why must a woman cozy up to a random man’s backside just to keep her place in line? The sweat is beginning to pour now.

I finally reach the booth. I yell in mem saab fashion to the face that greets me to teach their patrons the laws of the illusive qatar (queue). He wants 700 of my rupees and a form filled out. He does not have a pen for me to do this though.

The tirade resumes.

Why does this fine institution not have pens, a writing station, anything?

He looks at me as if this is the most obstinate demand he has ever encountered. He finds me a pen that barely works. I calm myself down and smile a thank you.

Now how to fill this form out?

Name. Check.

S/O… Wha-? What am I supposed to fill here bhai (me trying to make peace)?

He is clearly exasperated.

‘S/O’ means ‘son of’! Put in your father or husband’s name.

Well, you can imagine.

Do women not have driver’s licences?! Why does it say ‘ son of’?

Mumble Grumble, fume fume.

He has stopped paying attention to me. Clearly my protest is not translating correctly. Time and again, having to fill out my father or husband’s name on forms (and job interviews demanding your marital status) has infuriated me. I am always tempted to fill those ‘dotdotdots’ with a big four-letter word. But this is too much.

Not acknowledging my existence is worse than acknowledging it only in lieu of a man. Right?

I huff to booth number three. The line is long but everyone seems to insist that I go to the front. I believe this is supposed to be chivalry. Hey guys, guess what? I CAN wait in line!

The shock! The horror! But it’s true; I would rather wait my turn like the rest of you, cursing the inefficient system just like you and not have furtive glances and open-mouthed stares as if I were a freak show. I think its a decent trade-off.

They let me cut every line after that. Amused much?

In room number two, as my information was filled out on yet another flimsy piece of carbon paper, the nice man with eyes brimming with concern, said,

“Is there no gent with you? Are you alone? No gent? No aadmi?”

“Nope.”, I reply.

“Okay, okay we will get you out soon”, he insists.

Err, thanks, but really, I’m just irritated, not nearly overwhelmed at this.

I need consoling. I grab my friend and have lunch somewhere overpriced, but with all the air conditioning, it’s worth it.

I order the salmon quiche. They bring me spinach instead.

What a day.

Follow Anam on Twitter @anamabbas

Anam.Abbas

Anam Abbas

A film maker, science fiction enthusiast, and a certified yoga instructor at Omni, Islamabad who Tweets @anamabbas

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Matar Palao

    Mem Saab itna drama na karo.. Atleast you got your licence renewed before lunch.. That’s quite efficient =PRecommend

  • Saba Khalid

    I loved how you sketched this?! BeautifulRecommend

  • Hardliner

    What was this all about??? Couldn’t get a single point out of it…………Recommend

  • mr. righty rightist

    “Excuse me,” I said, “I am ahead of you.”

    Unperturbed, she says,

    There was space ahead of you.

    Hahahaha

    That has to be the joke of the day.Recommend

  • Rehan

    Typical hypocritical ‘feminist’. Can’t stand the heat – complain! Problem with the form – complain! Needs air-conditioning and expensive food – complain! Doesn’t want to stand in line – complain! Males graciously offer her their space in line – complain!!!
    Regards,
    RehanRecommend

  • Parvez

    Confused – both me and you.Recommend

  • Ali Alam

    @Hardliner, I agree. She just wanted to be a Blogger!
    Bibi, respecting elders and ladies is a socio cultural issue. But it concerns only those who have cultural background and social values. The neo liberals, (not The Liberals which I m proud to be, ) can’t appreciate the courtesy. God bless you friends. Yes, liberals do believe in God :-)Recommend

  • usama

    DramaRecommend

  • one more liberal

    woman means “complaining , complaining, complaining”Recommend

  • Hasan

    This was wonderful. Recommend

  • Abdul

    Mem Saab, u have honoured the great tradition of the pakistan women to create the drama out of nothing.

    I know this for fact that the womens are prioritized in each and every counter of the ITP office. Infact few weeks back i had heated discussion with the officiating officer to treat women as the same way as men are being treated!!!Recommend

  • http://Brisbane,Australia Raza Khan

    Enjoyed it! Pakistan is surely a very wierd country especially for educated & civilized women. I can fully visualize what she must have gone through with in the office. In these offices they look at these women like they have ascented from Mars.Recommend

  • https://twitter.com/pugnate Noman Ansari

    One of the best blogs I’ve seen in a while. I hope more public service offices in Pakistan are made ‘woman friendly’ some day. And no, ‘women friendly’ doesn’t mean treat them like members of the special Olympics team. Make these places as friendly for independent women as possible.

    Why does it say ‘son of’ on these forms? Are they only for men and gender confused women? Recommend

  • https://twitter.com/pugnate Noman Ansari

    @Rehan:

    Dude you are totally projecting your own issues. Where is she demanding that crap? She just wants to be treated like a respected and equal member of society.

    Who do we give way to in lines? The crippled? The elderly? Are women so helpless that they can’t stand in line? Are they not in control of mind? Are they senile?

    Women just want to stand in line with dignity, without being oggled at by undersexed dudes. Recommend

  • joey

    What the hell. You got everything done in time why would you go and write on this and waste my time kthinking ke abb hum kuttay admiioon nay kiss abhla narrii pe zulam ker dia. Serious stop writing about this stuff. Like what about the men who were standing in the lines even before you got to the place and still said no no chotii nein sahab you go ahead. Write a blog to appericiiate themRecommend

  • Sane

    Just exaggeration and nothing. No real substance.Recommend

  • Shoaib

    Typical, rambling about trivial issues in her life.

    That said.. i agree that the forms should also have a D/O. Recommend

  • derpton

    Dear writer, can you please spell ‘drama queen’ ?Recommend

  • ovais khan

    you are the only one wearing gold lame tights …hmmmmm interesting…..:PRecommend

  • Tanzeel

    If she really wanted to be treated equally – she would have had to visit the licence office three consecutive days – and guess what, she would have written a blog in that case as well. Confused masses of protoplasm. Pakistani Born Confused Burgers.Recommend

  • https://www.facebook.com/farhan.a.hassan1 Capt Farhan

    When in Rome, do as the Romans do, It was Islamabad, Please dont visit the rest of Pakistan wearing gold lame tights, Have mercy lady. Every man is bound to put you ahead when in a queue. lolRecommend

  • Tamree

    Great post Anam. I hear you!

    @Capt Farhan, she wasn’t wearing golden tights…she meant the situation was as awkward as wearing them when you’re the only one! Uff..I can’t believe people criticise before they even read something properly! Recommend

  • Khalild Mahmood

    Dress as most women dress in Pakistan and you would not get unusual attention. Women in such situation do get preferential treatment by men so why should you insist on equal treatment?Recognize that in most civil places, like the one you visited, men generally let women take precedence without considering them unequal or inferior.
    Butting in happens everywhere in Pakistan and has no reference to gender.Recommend

  • Deal With It

    So you decide to act completely opposite to what your society is geared towards (because lets face it this was no US Embassy you were heading towards and gold tights? Tights? seriously?!) and expect people with more issues on their mind than GLOBAL FEMINISM to worry about to treat you just like another average everyday Pakistani? And you’re 26 and you STILL complain about official shortcomings of Pakistani institutions?! Shows how much of this country you’ve been exposed to i.e. not a lot.Recommend

  • Ali S

    You got off easier than most, be thankful for that. And commonsense dictates that you should take some caution before entering a government office in this country and not wear gold lame tights if you don’t want men staring at you. “Rebelling” won’t fix them up, it will just attract unnecessary attention towards you.Recommend

  • murtaz jaffry

    @Rehan:
    agree with every word you said ,but it is description of bimbo and not a feminist ……lols or may be a bimbo who is confused .Recommend

  • Vigilant Citizen

    “Deal With It” summed it up rather nicely.

    Don’t think you’ve stepped out of the F sector a lot to be dishing out such an un-unique perspective on our institutional process; not to mention the male psyche. Clearly, it stems from your ignorance to our social norms which, I daresay, our elitist and newly inducted feminist class chooses not to uphold. And its funny how your juiced up feminist self, which would have preferred waiting in the line, yielded, when afforded a gratuitous opportunity to cut the line.

    Kiya ye khulla tazaad nai hai??

    I tell you this though, I’m glad that atleast those poor men got their suffering’s worth; tights and all….Recommend

  • http://www.zaidzamanhamid.wordpress.com Zaid Hamid

    I hate it when people go to banks, offices and other such places without a pen (despite of knowing that they need to fill a form)…and they give that disgusted look… “these guys cannot keep a pen and have opened such big an office”..Recommend

  • Salman Nadeem

    You would think that a a girl from a wealthy family understands this. First of all its Muslim country and you shout go in the correct attire instead of wearing skin tight gold whatever, secondly i think you have had everything served to you on a golden plate which has influenced a lot of the decisions you make and expect perfectness. Although you have the part of treating a female the same as a male which is the correct thing to do. Lastly majority of the people ( most of whom you met at your first attempt to do something yourself ) have not heard of samon quiche so please step out of your world. What a waste of time this article was.Recommend

  • A.S.

    All our people we hope will modernize and westernize even more than Turkey and then even more than Europe we hope.Recommend

  • http://umairashraf.me Umair Ashraf

    Yeah he meant “Is there no giant with you?” You might have heard it wrong.Recommend

  • Funny Person

    What a nice drama you have with those people. I don’t stop laughing at this. It make you funny alot when you enter irritated place like bank, office, etc.

    Clap, clap clap. Thats nice story

    ThanksRecommend

  • bangash

    This girl did not wear any gold tights…she was using them in an expression about being the only one in a room who is different. Men in Pakistan need to read a column before commenting.Recommend

  • http://www.anon.com Anon

    You all are such idiots. She never said she was wearing golden tights. She said that’s what it felt like: like she (a woman) was something completely out of the ordinary and everyone just oggled at her.

    And not only that, she was talking about the space isn’t woman friendly. Her complain wasn’t really the lines or not the lines or the bad pens – though it added on to her irritations and frustration. What she is saying is: why can’t just everyone look at her as another human being instead of a woman and wrongly coddle her. She never asked for lines to be cut just for her. But they did (and hence her irony: “amused much”). She is just angry and frustrated that in Pakistan, or in this case, Islamabad, she HAD to have a man with her. Whether it was in the form of the of the form itself where she needs to constantly tell which man she is affiliated with (father, husband, etc), or if it was the nice policeman who was like “OHMYGOD ALLAH HELP THE MASSES A WOMAN ALONE IN THE OFFICE OHMYGOD THIS ISNT THE RIGHT PLACE FOR HER OHMYGOD HOW ABOUT HER IZZAT OHMYGOD) and look guys, calm down, I know everyone would be like: “but that’s like, the VIP treatment”. what you are not getting is, she DOES. NOT. WANT. THAT. what she is saying is: you wouldn’t treat a guy like that, why are you treating ME like this. and that’s her only complaint. was her day long and irritating and frustrating? yeah, sounds like to me that it was, so she has every right to blog about it, to vent out her frustrations. but i cant believe most of you dont even has the slightest reading comprehension that you couldnt get what she was really talking about.

    Allah help us all. This is not a Muslim society. Women aren’t supposed to be treated like this in a Muslim society. This isn’t dignity. This is just humiliation. Which is the mark of an uncivilized, barbaric, ignorant society. Recommend

  • Rara

    YOU FREAKS THE GOLD TIGHTS WERE AN EXAMPLE!!!! people are so ignorant Recommend

  • gp65

    Everyone who is going off about her gold tights – please read te bolog again. She did not wear them. She was simply saying she felt as odd as though she was wearing them – get the difference?

    Secondly, she is right to feel annoyed about a form that says S/O. We have such type of gender insensitivity in many Indian public sector forms also – though it has redcued over time. But it is very annoying when one encounters it.

    Finally I do not see anything unreasonable that she has written.Recommend

  • Ahmed Daniyal

    So women have Rights in A SO CALLED Islamic countryRecommend

  • Harris

    oh my gawd… so burger :pRecommend

  • Khalild Mahmood

    One thing wonderful about Pakistani society that I greatly admire is that however they may treat women elsewhere but in the public places men defer to women spontaneously, even as a knee jerk reaction. And, they do that without any thought of considering women as unequal or inferior. The men are great in this regard as they duly recognize the honor that our women are. This is something that the Pakistanis can be proud of. Giving precedence to women is honoring them without any other considerations whatsoever. However, men and women both do look quizzically and even stare at people dressed differently or who look uncommon and unfortunately this is truer if the subject in question is a woman. This is what we must learn to avoid.Recommend

  • Khalild Mahmood

    “Unperturbed, she says,
    There was space ahead of you.”
    I have wondered if men or women are the worst enemies of women. I do not have enough evidence, someone please guide me. My casual observation is that men, aside from exceptions, generally are better friends to women than women are to their kind. One example, which is not enough, is: a father-in-law is usually more protective of a daughter-in-law; however, a mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law are often said to be in conflict. My hunch is that woman is the worst enemy of woman. Readers please enlighten.Recommend

  • http://Thedabbabrigade.wordpress.com RiffyR

    All of the people going on and on about how she should not have worn golden tights, she DIDN’T.
    Also, everyone who uses “It’s a Muslim Country” line to impose their views on others should know that it’s all the more reason for us to be tolerant.Recommend

  • clueless1324

    What if mem saheb have to wait 5-6 hours in queue to get her fee deposited….. She would have loved the heat of the sun…. We would love to hear the complains then….. and i forgot women are being subject to extreme torture in Pakistan….!!

    What a drama!!

    P.S: I appreciate your writing and if you have the passion for it then write it all !!Recommend

  • Mohi

    I don’t understand why has your note appeared in google news, probably gaping geeks at google tech have the privilege of appreciating your golden tights or whatever you were putting on and not our poor police men. Bibi they also have hearts and a right to appreciate the beauty…

    I don’t understand why would a girl expect not to be looked upon if she pretends to be a mem sahib (a british lady, caucasian, and colonial creed). Actually it has more to do with funny side of the picture. I wouldn’t normally ‘stare’ at women with greedy eyes but I enjoy watching funny ‘bicharis’ who pretend to be foreigners stuck up in ‘ignorant pakistanis’. Believe me its a funny scene like watching a crow pretending to be a parrot or vise versa. The crow has its own culture and parrot has got its own. If a crow remains a crow other crows will barely notice but if a crow pretends to be a parrot it will alarm the other crows and they will start doing kai kai lol.

    Your other points reg the lack of facilities are worthless, it is pakistan, a third world country. we were born and bred in this country and we are aware of the problems. Its very bad that when we turn 26, and think we can write, we start reporting the same problems and not the solutions.

    Please try to write in simple language, which is crisp and a modern. To me it seems you are kinda copy pasting phrases from 30 year old books/articles and editing them to convey your points.
    Stop wearing golden tights in public if you want to go about your daily business unnoticed and like a common person.
    Convey solutions, not the problems who doesn’t know the issues people want to hear solutions.
    Let me know which tights are you wearing right now :)

    Thanks,

    MohiRecommend

  • Gullible Nomore

    Awwww! Anam, you want a cookie?Recommend

  • http://www.londontravelandtours.com Sulman

    DRAMA QUEEN – No Point to publish this stupid story . LolRecommend

  • https://www.facebook.com/farhan.a.hassan1 Capt Farhan

    With reference to my previous post: I read the Article complete, but her feminist attitude exasperated me enough that i tried to manipulate the judgment of readers as accepted wisdom. And I succeeded to some extent. Well apologies madam.Recommend

  • A

    He has stopped paying attention to me.
    The line is long but everyone seems to insist that I go to the front. I believe this is supposed to be chivalry. Hey guys, guess what? I CAN wait in line!

    Nothing seems to be right for you girly…One question: Where you on your special days?Recommend

  • Citizen

    really enjoyed reading :)Recommend

  • Big Rizvi

    Can you women do anything else other than complain, complain and complain? Show me another trick, clown!Recommend

  • Blind folded

    You think she was wearing gold tights? It was an example you big bufoons :p hahah Recommend

  • sherry

    ppl!!!
    is there anything else to discuss except her “tights”Recommend

  • abhi

    Why were you not having a pen? I think your experience was a really good it cannot be better in any government office.Recommend

  • Zee

    I’m a woman by the way, and I make use of every opportunity that is given to me in this country. Pakistan is the only country where women get so many opportunities. And I make use of it. I don’t complain like you. Have you ever been to/or lived in US or China? You would know that. They say women are bad drivers. I make use of it, I drive bad, and still get away, without any consequences, Only in Pakistan. Recommend

  • http://www.bukisa.com/join/140098 cynical

    mem sahab k nakhray..!! shukar karo license to mila….please someone tell me why do women love to complain and create a drama out of everything? Recommend

  • Nayab

    No offense but you sound kinda spoiled and need to get into the real world of Pakiland more. It’s this everywhere and I’m shocked you’re figuring this out now. But better late than never I guessRecommend

  • umer

    Im so confused. Once at passport office in Karachi where as usual lot of men at processing window, two very respectable ladies protested why there isnt there a seperate line for females.. later.. line made. Excellent !!! as part of our society we are tought to give women respect (now a days seems rare, i’d agree). But after reading this article she was irritated by the same thing. Shouldnt women of Pakistan make a committee or may be a sub committee of APWA or something that decides a uniform code all over Pakistan. Becuase im seriously confused next time do I give way to respectable lady, not give her way, wwwwwhat ?Recommend

  • http://whhhh.com Yuuuuu

    @Matar Palao:
    hahahahhaRecommend

  • http://whhhh.com Yuuuuu

    @Hardliner:
    exactlyRecommend

  • Werda

    You should go to the Lahore Passport Office! You would have fumed your way through pages and pages of your treatment there. Recommend

  • Huma

    im sorry but its not just a woman whio has to do “daughter/wife of” column, even men have the “son of” space to fill in, in forms… so thats a very random complaint… haan they could have written “daughter of” in it, but thats expecting a bit much from morons who dont have pens!Recommend

  • Ghassan Khan

    I see what you’re getting at. Women (the poor ones) are either disrespected immensely or given way too much attention(the elite). Our people have yet to give women equal status to men (not greater, nor lesser).

    A narrative always simplifies things but I think you should have stated the ‘moral’ at the end.

    Anyways, Bravo. Recommend